I should have known Halloween wasn’t going to be for me the moment the headband went on.
Things started off pretty well between Halloween and I, but we fell out of love with each other somewhere along the way and, though Halloween seems to be coming back from the wild lifestyle of which I did not approve, I don’t know if things will ever be the same between us again.
When I was a kid in the late 1970s, Halloween meant what I suspect it’s meant for generations before me and, hopefully, after: candy, costumes and controlled scares.
By the time I was ready for costumes and trick-or-treating, it was 1978 and I was in pre-school. Now, for those of you to either side of my generation, Halloween costumes in the late 70’s and 80’s were boxed vinyl scrubs emblazoned with artwork reflecting the outfit of, or else a scene depicting, a licensed pop culture character of some kind. These were topped off with a light plastic mask that would strap to our little faces through the graces of a single strand of cheap elastic. Both the scrubs, and especially the masks, were specifically designed to elicit one thing each All Hallows’ Eve, kid sweat.
Over the years, I donned several of these one-size-fits-nones. One year I was R2-D2, one year I was the Kraken from the movie “Clash of the Titans.” Or was it Godzilla? Another year I was Satan himself. Yep, Satan.
The first year I wore one of the boxed sweat wraps was that year in pre-school, 1978, and I either asked for, or was issued, a Bugs Bunny costume.
But that mask did not sit right with my mother.
How would she know it was me? How would other people? What was the point of the pictures if they were just of some kid, any kid, in a Bugs Bunny mask and smock? She had
The ears could stay. They wouldn’t obstruct my angelic face, after all. And so my mother cut them from the mask and affixed them to…a girl’s plastic headband.
You’re the only one reading this, right?
Since I’d just be Jason with Bunny Ears from the neck up without the rest of the mask, my mother capped off the ensemble by drawing a bunny nose and whiskers on me and off I went to pre-school where I wasn’t so much Bugs Bunny as I was just some bunny with a Bugs smock on.
My best friend, by the way, was Batman, OK? Batman.
None of this is meant to deride my mother, of course, Halloween just had a way of reinforcing the social hierarchy of kiddom.
The year I was R2-D2, my best friend was Chewbacca. Another friend of ours was Yoda. The fourth kid in our trick-or-treat group, the one with whom no one really got along, was Ernie.
I missed that scene in “The Empire Strikes Back.”
I don’t mean to suggest Halloween was bad in those days, quite the opposite. I loved trick-or-treating. I loved the school parties. I even loved the masks. I’d wear mine no matter how much sweat dripped through the eyeholes or into my eyes. I was supposed to be the Kraken, for Pete’s sake—or Godzilla—and that’s what I was going to look like until the pillow case was full of Smarties, Blow Pops and Charleston Chews which, for all the intention I had of ingesting them, may as well have been chocolate-covered slugs.
So, there was a time I loved Halloween. But things changed.
We got too old for trick-or-treating in store-bought kid’s costumes, but we did it anyway, in something homemade or no real costume at all. Overstaying our welcome in some of the tropes of childhood is something many of us do. It’s always a bit awkward, maybe a bit painful or embarrassing, but that’s not why Halloween fell out of favor with me.
I didn’t like the idea that, if I didn’t get my awkward trick-or-treating done before dark, I was going to be hit with shaving cream, eggs, frozen eggs or perhaps C batteries by the kids in the neighborhood for whom candy and school parties were no longer enough, or
I didn’t like those times at all. Halloween felt wrong in those years. It felt nasty and mean-spirited. I felt like Halloween had left kids like me behind and, maybe, I felt like I was being pressured to “grow up” and do things older kids were supposed to want to do and I didn’t.
About six or seven years later, Halloween and I had a brief rekindling.
I was at a party with my Tower Records & Video co-workers and found myself having a good time. I quite liked most of my co-workers and, for that reason if no other, the party seemed like a good idea.
Plus, I’m never going to say no to the possibility of a girl in a belly dance costume. I’m
It was the first time I’d dressed up for Halloween in years and, though I cheated by wearing all the western clothing I usually spread out over a few days at once—yes, western wear; story for another column—everyone appreciated the effort. I even scored major points when a co-worker who wanted to play poker turned to me and said, “It would be cool if you had cards.” Without a word, I reached into my gambler’s vest and produced my lucky deck of cards.
I never saw the cards again, of course, but it was a cool moment in a life that has produced few.
The last time I really enjoyed Halloween was a few years ago when my wife and I went with another couple to the pumpkin blaze up at Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton. Finally, this was something I could get behind. Halloween tradition and atmosphere mixed with artistry and no hurled rechargeables. It was a fun night.
I even got a book about monster hunting you’re going to be sorry you don’t have one day.
And so, it seems to me between the blaze and the organized haunted houses and hayrides, Halloween has swung back the way of candy, costumes and controlled scares. I can’t say Halloween and I are back together, but we are on speaking terms again.
I wonder how much a Theodore Roosevelt costume would make me sweat.
Reach Jason Chirevas at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @jasonchirevas